U.S. Marines launched amphibious-assault vehicles from a Philippine navy sealift vessel for the first time during this month’s Kamandag exercise off Luzon island, the Marine Corps said.
The tracked amphibious landing vehicles, known as AAVs, launched seven times between Oct. 2-9 from the BRP Tarlac, one of the Philippines’ two new landing platform dock ships, officials said.
“The No. 1 challenge was that the crew had never had AAVs on that ship,” Maj. Timothy Neder, 36, of Modesto, Calif., told Stars and Stripes Monday during a phone interview.
Five AAVs and 33 Marines from Amphibious Assault Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, along with three sailors from Naval Beach Group 1, were involved, said Neder, who commanded Marines involved in the exercise.
The Marines and U.S. and Filipino sailors also practiced recovering the amphibious vehicles onto the Tarlac and conducted three beach landings, dropping off food and water and dozens of American and Filipino Marines, Neder said.
Each of the armored vehicles can carry 18 combat-loaded Marines and is armed with a .50 caliber machine gun and an Mk-19 grenade launcher, he added.
The Tarlac, which holds up to 500 troops, usually carries two helicopters and a pair of Landing Craft Utility boats that are also capable of transporting troops and equipment to shore.
“It wasn’t built around AAVs but the well deck (at the waterline where landing craft launch) can still ballast and it still has room in there to park,” Neder said.
The Navy can carry more than 40 of the amphibious vehicles on a large ship like the Sasebo, Japan-based USS Bonhomme Richard. The Marines can fit only six to eight of them on the Tarlac, but the procedures for launching and recovering are the same, Neder said.
The Philippines, which has clashed with China over island territory in the South China Sea, is expanding its amphibious capability. In May, the Philippine navy commissioned a second sealift vessel called the BRP Davao del Sur. Australia, which is also building its amphibious capability, has one of its massive new landing helicopter docks, the HMAS Adelaide, in Manila this week to train with the Philippine military.
Neder said the U.S. would provide the Philippines with AAVs early next year.
“They are starting to realize the benefits of having amphibious surface connectors … being an archipelago with multiple islands,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila and Armed Forces of the Philippines officials did not provide specifics about the weapons transfer.
The Kamandag training prepared the Tarlac to carry Philippine Marine Corps AAVs, which are slated to enter service in 2019, Capt. Maria Dalmacio, a Philippine Marine Corps public affairs officer, said in a statement.
Neder said he expects the Marines to do more training with their own amphibious vehicles in the Philippines to increase the proficiency of the Philippines Marine Corps and Navy with the vehicles.
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